Several dozen people were killed Friday in a series of terror attacks, the deadliest to hit Paris since World War II, French President Francois Hollande said, announcing that he was closing the country’s borders and declaring a state of emergency.
At least 35 people died in at least six attacks. Many of those killed were in a popular concert hall where patrons were taken hostage, police and medical officials said. The violence gripped the city in fear and recalled the horrors of the Charlie Hebdo carnage just 10 months ago.
A police official said 11 people were killed in a Paris restaurant in the 10th arrondissement, and other police officials said at least twice that number died elsewhere, primarily in the Bataclan music venue, where the hostages were taken. It was unclear how many people were in the hall; one official said there were around 100, while another said there were far fewer.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be publicly named in the quickly moving investigation.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the series of attacks.
Hollande, in a televised address, said the nation would stand firm and united against the attackers.
“This is a terrible ordeal that again assails us,” he said. “We know where it comes from, who these criminals are, who these terrorists are.”
U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking to reporters in Washington, called the attacks on Paris “outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians” and vowed to do whatever it takes to help bring the perpetrators to justice.
Later Friday, automatic gunfire and blasts could be heard from the concert hall, and police officials confirmed that security forces had launched an assault there. Neither official could be named when discussing the ongoing operation, which several officials said involved dozens of hostages. Scores of police surrounded the building and sirens wailed throughout the neighborhood.
Earlier Friday, two explosions were heard outside the Stade de France stadium north of Paris during a France-Germany friendly football match. A police union official said there were two suicide attacks and a bombing that killed at least three people.
The official, Gregory Goupil of the Alliance Police Nationale, whose region includes the area of the stadium, said explosions went off simultaneously near two entrances and a McDonalds.
An Associated Press reporter in the stadium Friday night heard two explosions loud enough to penetrate the sounds of cheering fans. Sirens were immediately heard, and a helicopter was circling overhead. Hollande, who was in the stadium, was evacuated to an emergency meeting.
The attack comes as France has heightened security measures ahead of a major global climate conference that starts in two weeks, out of fear of violent protests and potential terrorist attacks.
Emilio Macchio, from Ravenna, Italy, was at the Carillon bar near the restaurant that was targeted, having a beer on the sidewalk, when the shooting started. He said he didn’t see any gunmen or victims, but hid behind a corner, then ran away.
“It sounded like fireworks,” he said.
France has been on edge since deadly attacks by Islamic extremists in January on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery that left 20 dead, including the three attackers. The Charlie Hebdo attackers claimed links to extremists in Yemen, while the kosher market attacker claimed ties to the Islamic State group.
One of at least two restaurants targeted Friday, Le Carillon, is in the same general neighborhood as the Charlie Hebdo offices, as is the Bataclan, among the best-known venues in eastern Paris, near the trendy Oberkampf area known for a vibrant nightlife. The California-based band Eagles of Death Metal was scheduled to play there Friday night.
The country has seen several smaller-scale attacks or attempts since, including an incident on a high-speed train in August in which American travelers thwarted an attempted attack by a heavily armed man.
France’s military is bombing Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq and fighting extremists in Africa, and extremist groups have frequently threatened France in the past.
French authorities are particularly concerned about the threat from hundreds of French Islamic radicals who have travelled to Syria and returned home with skills to stage violence.
AP writers Greg Keller, Jerome Pugmire, Samuel Petrequin and Jamey Keaten contributed to this story.
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